PUTTING PARENTHOOD IN PERSPECTIVE: THE TRANSITION TO ADULTHOOD, PARENTHOOD, AND CRIME FOR FORMERLY SANCTIONED AT-RISK YOUNG ADULTS
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Qualitative research suggests that becoming a parent contributes to desisting patterns of crime for male and female offenders (Giordano, Cernkovich, and Rudolph, 2002; Moloney et al., 2009), yet quantitative analysis provides less support for a relationship, especially for male offenders (Siennick and Osgood, 2008). This paper addresses this apparent disagreement by examining whether and how parenthood relates to involvement in crime among formerly sanctioned at-risk young adults. I analyze in-depth, semi-structured interviews from an ethnically diverse sample of men and women, parents and non-parents, ages 20 to 25, who participated in the Research on Pathways to Desistance study in Philadelphia. The accounts of parents and non-parents allowed me to explore the underlying social and subjective mechanisms in desisting and persisting patterns of crime. I found that many of the informants, persisters and desisters, engaged in intermittent offending and described qualitative changes in offending during the transition to adulthood. Informants associated movement in and out of crime with cognitive shifts, supervision and monitoring from others, and restructured routine activities, many of which were related to markers of adulthood, including parenthood. When informants persisted or returned to crime after periods of abstinence, it was often because these mechanisms and processes failed or were discarded. With respect to parenthood, many parents initially met the challenges of parenthood by selling drugs and other crime. Desisting patterns of crime were related to parents recognizing the consequences of their involvement in crime for their children and to an interdependent "package deal" that included employment and a co-parent. By contrast, persisting patterns were associated with informants seeing themselves as bad parents and with living apart from their children. Implications of these findings for theories of continuity and change in crime, future research, and policy are discussed.